Here are 5 classic mincemeat recipes — used to make the holiday favorite, mince pie — as remembered from family cookbooks, and printed in the New York City newspaper in 1920.
Yankee mincemeats to round out the season
By Florence Taft Eaton
“One hundred pies on the pantry shelf” was the old ideal
An old lady of my acquaintance once told me that in her ambitious, young housekeeping days she used to always make 100 pies at the beginning of the winter, storing them in an otherwise unused, empty room, shelf-equipped for the purpose.
The story was very hard to believe, in spite of my friend’s unimpeachable character for veracity and also the fact that, in those times, a meal at which a pie or two did not appear on the table would considered a dismal failure; but I was assured of its truth.
We do not consider it any advantage nowadays to be too forehanded in regard to the finished pie product — in fact, to go to the other extreme, I partook of a Thanksgiving dinner a year or two ago for which the pies had been baked that very morning, the cook believing that “fresh pies” be really deserving of the term “fresh” and to be as good as possible must be made the day they are eaten.
The second installment
Probably your mincemeat was so good that the first lot is nearly, if not entirely, gone. Many housekeepers, like myself, are now contemplating the second installment, which by economical use and possibly by canning a portion will last over until the milder spring weather has lessened the attraction of such hearty desserts as mince pies.
Perhaps — again like myself — you like to try new recipes occasionally instead of the old standbys. A bit of difference in flavoring, a change of proportions, sometimes produces a practically new dish.
Following is an excellent recipe for mincemeat, which even in pre-prohibition days did not call for any of the alcoholic additions then usually considered necessary.
1. Mrs Wheeler’s classic mincemeat recipe
Five quarts of chopped meat, ten quarts of chopped apples, six pounds of brown sugar, one quart of chopped suet, one quart of molasses, one quart of raisins, half a quart each of currants and citron (may be omitted if wished), one tablespoonful each of nutmeg and cloves, two tablespoonsful of cinnamon, one-half tablespoonful of mace; three fourths cupful of salt, the broth in which the meat was cooked and enough cider to moisten as you like it. Cook slowly and stir occasionally, for half a day.
To this recipe, I add the juice and grated rind of two lemons and two tumblersful of jelly or jelly leftovers. More fruit and spice may be added, if individual taste and purse allows. This makes a large quantity, and I usually halved the recipe. Also, if you prefer, you may use less meat and more apple. You may buy the bottled boiled cider, or use fresh cider, boiling it away somewhat.
A particularly definite and delectable recipe, the result of many years of careful experimenting, follows:
2. Mrs Smith’s Concordia mince
Half a pound of finely-chopped suet, three cupsful of chopped meat, four cupsful of chopped raisins, four cupsful of currants, four cupsful of brown sugar, half a pound of citron cut in small bits, three cupsful of white sugar, one cupful of molasses, nine cupsful of chopped apples, six cupsful of meat liquor, eight teaspoonsful of salt, six teaspoonsful of cinnamon, one and a half teaspoonsful each of mace and clove and allspice, one grated nutmeg, one quart of boiled cider, three lemons, juice and grated rind, two oranges (juice and rind), one tumblerful of barberry jelly or other tart variety. One half cupful of brandy and three fourths cupful of sherry were called for in the original recipe, but these may be omitted without spoiling the pie.
To this, as to any mincemeat, any bits of left-over jelly or jam or fruit syrup may be added. Three and one half pounds of shin beef will make about the amount called for. Wash carefully, cover with water and simmer until tender; remove meat and boil away liquor until you have about three pints. Simmer all together for two or three hours, covered, and stir. This makes about twelve-quart jarsful. When making the pies, lay a few whole raisins on the mincemeat before applying the top crust. I should advise tasting in reference to salt.
3. Old “Hit-or-Miss” mincemeat recipe
In spite of the jibes and jeers which have been applied to the inexact “little of this and little of that” recipes of the unscientific but often unsurpassed cooks of “ye olden time,” some sorts of food lend themselves to this indefinite putting together.
I have in mind a mother and daughter who, every year, consecrate one long morning in early November to a real pre-holiday orgy; chopping and mixing the essentials, collecting dainties — part of a box of dried candied orange peel, tumblers of last year’s jellies or jams, a bit of candied fruit, an orange and lemon or two, testing at intervals — with the result, at the end of it all, of a big kettleful of truly delectable mincemeat in regard to whose composition never a recipe but experience and judgment has been consulted.
The following receiptless recipe may be safely tried by even the most inexperienced housekeeper. To get the full benefit and “fun,” however, two congenial members of the family should make it together!
Take any amount of meat, put through the meat chopper, using a pint bowl as a measure, three times as much chopped apple, same measure of chopped suet and molasses as meat, one pound of brown sugar, one teaspoonful each of clove and nutmeg, and two teaspoonsful of cinnamon and two tablespoonsful of salt to each bowl of meat.
Fruit (raisins, currants and citron), as wished or can be afforded, using mostly raisins and only a little citron, as it is very expensive at the present time. I prefer the raisins whole, and always wash the “perfectly clean” currants and raisins very carefully. Slice the citron thin. A good proportion is one package of raisins and half a package of currants and one-fourth pound of thinly-sliced citron to each bowl of meat.
Cook the meat the preceding day in just enough water to cover, and start the mincemeat with the broth and molasses. To this foundation, as above, add any suitable tidbits you can collect; anything that is good in itself and will combine well will be good in the mincemeat — a little sweet pickle syrup, two or three tumblersful of, preferably, tart jelly, forgotten jam that may be too dry for the table, cut in bits; canned fruit syrup, and always the grate and rind of a lemon or two and an orange, if on hand; boiled down sweet cider, if you can get it; if not, one-fourth cupful of vinegar and more fruit juice.
Stir well, taste to see if you like it, and supply more moistening, salt or sugar if you prefer.
I will promise you as delicious mince pies made by this recipe as you can wish, and a jolly time in the making! Let it simmer through the afternoon, being careful that it does not burn. This will keep in a crock in a cool cellar for a few weeks, but may be canned if you prefer.
4. Meatless mince pies
Five pounds of chopped apples (weighed after prepared), one-half pound of chopped suet, two pounds of raisins (one seeded and one seedless, chopping the seeded), one-half pound of finely-cut citron, one pound of brown sugar, three-fourths cupful of molasses, two dessert spoonsfuls (more if your taste dictates) of salt.
Add one-half teaspoonful each of mace and ground clove, one teaspoonful of nutmeg, two teaspoonsful of cinnamon, one teaspoonful of allspice, juice and grate of a lemon and an orange, one tumblerful of a tart jelly or half a tumblerful of two different kinds, and enough cider white grape juice or canned fruit juice to moisten sufficiently; if the latter, add four tablespoonsful of vinegar. Syrup of sweet pickle, if any is on hand, may be used as part of the liquid. Mix well, simmer two hours and store in a stone crock.
5. Impromptu mincemeat recipe
One cupful of any beef on hand (boiled beef, roast or remnants) chopped finely, three cupsful of chopped apples, one-half cupful of chopped suet, one and one-half cupsful of brown sugar, one cupful of seedless raisins, a very little sliced citron, one and one-half teaspoonsful each of salt and cinnamon, one quarter teaspoonful each of clove, mace and nutmeg, juice and grate of one lemon, two or three tablespoonsful of remnants of jelly and enough cider, sweet pickle vinegar or half of each added to same amount of meat broth to moisten. Simmer one hour.
Instead of all brown sugar, one-half cupful of it may be omitted and one-fourth cupful of molasses added, if the flavor of molasses is preferred. In making all of these mincemeats, I advise critical tasting at the end of the mixing and cooking, as individual preferences as to spice, sweetening and salt are so different.
I have aimed to give proportions to suit the average taste, out mincemeat lends itself perfectly to any preferred variations; also, some prefer a moister product than others.